Artists stake a claim for wider acceptance of all genders

Banshee Collective: Gillian Adamson, Holly Farrell, Caitlin Dempsey, Liam Buckley.
Banshee Collective: Gillian Adamson, Holly Farrell, Caitlin Dempsey, Liam Buckley.

A new creative collective of performance artists, visual artists and musicians has sprung up in Newcastle. Called Banshee, the four-person group of twenty-somethings want to diversify Newcastle’s creative scene.

Comprising graphic designer Holly Farrell, guitar teacher Liam Buckley, performance artist Caitlin Dempsey and visual artist Gillian Adamson, the four are on a mission to increase visibility of artists in Newcastle, particularly for those they say are underrepresented.  

Dempsey and Adamson came up with the concept. They wanted more diverse line-ups in terms of gender and cultural background.

“We’d been to the same event, seeing the same musicians performing each week. We noticed it was predominantly a male lineup,” Adamson says. “We were a bit in the circle, and we wanted to bring more people into the circle that aren’t just straight white men.”

They said they call themselves Banshee because they want to reclaim a term that is often negatively associated with females. To "scream like a banshee" is to make a lot of noise, and they wanted their events and shows to be heard.

As a keyboardist in a band with four boys, Adamson has felt uncomfortable in the past at the lack of women performing in the scene, a frustration shared by other female musicians.

“I probably still don’t feel comfortable playing music by myself, but even playing at a gig, it’s often a male line-up. I’m in one of the bands, but no one shakes my hand; everyone assumes I’m someone’s girlfriend,” Adamson says.

The three female members don’t mind having Buckley on board in the collective – men are welcome and included in this initiative.

Of course, Buckley shares the group’s ethos. He says it’s unfortunate that many of the prominent shows in Newcastle are male dominated, but he knows female artists are out there.  

“The more you look the more you find female artists,” he says.

Farrell, who works for Newcastle Art Gallery, said the most recognised visual artists are usually male.

“That’s why we are doing what we’re doing, the only way we’ll break that down is by holding these events,” Dempsey says.

Dempsey and Adamson have also worked in performance art and are interested in incorporating this and other styles of immersive art in Newcastle. The first event they are having is free, but they hope to work out a way to pay artists eventually.

“This first event is going to be a typical exhibition but in the future we want to have one artist who is curating the whole night. We want to engage in people on a deeper level,” Farrell says.

Banshee’s first event, Undercurrents, is August 18 at  oodriver Studios (3/850 Hunter St). It will include Bangladeshi-heritage artist Zarin Cenna and local indigenous artist Saretta Fielding.

Facebook: Banshee Presents: Undercurrents.